Doklam standoff ends: India, China begin to pull troops out from site

There may be an end in sight to the Doklam standoff indicated the external affairs ministry (MEA) on Monday as it announced that both Indian and Chinese troops are slowly being pulled out from the face-off site.

“…expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is ongoing,” said a statement from the ministry.

The MEA is calling this process the ‘Doklam Disengagement Understanding’ and it comes after weeks of sustained diplomacy.

The move comes ahead of the BRICS summit, which will be attended by leaders from five countries, including PM Narendra Modi, in the Chinese city of Xiamen in early September. It also comes before a crucial 19th party congress in China where Xi Jinping expects to be “cleared” for another five years, after which he will choose the core group of leaders who will rule China, also for the next five years.

India and China have been keeping diplomatic channels open ever since the border incursion by China on June 16, in what’s called the tri-junction area at Doklam, which is in Bhutan. This, despite the strident rhetoric, especially from China, and especially from its state-backed media. The external affairs ministry said that over this period of time, New Delhi has conveyed its views to Beijing.

“In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests,” the ministry’s statement added.

According to report in early August that there were indications the Chinese could be winding down their offensive posture on the plateau where they had brought troops and heavy machinery to build a road on Bhutanese territory. Government sources said diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff had achieved satisfactory progress but hastened to add that it would be premature to rush to a judgment about China’s intent.

“They appeared to have lowered the ante on the ground, but we are keeping our fingers crossed,” a senior official told TOI, making it clear that India would not relent on its demand for simultaneous withdrawal by both countries.

Still, Beijing and its media’s strident rhetoric continued unabated.

Just last week, China intensified its criticism of India on Thursday while discussing reports that India was building a road between Marsimik la to Hot Spring in Ladakh sector.

“It seems that the Indian side is slapping its own face,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
Also last week, China issued a travel advisory for its citizens in India or coming to India. It cautioned its citizens against infectious diseases and natural disasters.

“There frequently occurred natural disasters, traffic accidents and infectious diseases in India (sic),” said the advisory.

 This was Beijing’s second advisory to its citizens and suggested an attempt to create a scare and reduce the flow of Chinese tourists to India in the hope that New Delhi will come under pressure. China rarely issues advisories to its citizens concerning countries in Africa and Asia which are subject to a lot more natural disasters and infectious diseases.

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